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    15 November 2023

    Choosing the Captain for Northern Ireland’s Euro 2024 qualifiers: Manager Michael O’Neill’s Dilemma

    The Northern Ireland Football Captaincy Conundrum

    In the ever-changing landscape of international football, Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill finds himself facing a unique challenge – the captaincy conundrum. With several key players unavailable or injured, O’Neill must navigate through a pool of potential candidates to find the right leader for his team.

    When Steven Davis, their talismanic skipper, suffered a long-term injury just after O’Neill took charge in December, it was undoubtedly a significant blow. However, Manchester United’s Jonny Evans stepped up as an exceptional deputy during Davis’ absence.

    Unfortunately for O’Neill and his side, Evans has also been plagued by injuries and missed the opening Euro 2024 qualifying matches earlier this year. This led to experienced defender Craig Cathcart being chosen as temporary captain in Evan’s place.

    But now with Cathcart retired and Evans still sidelined for upcoming fixtures against Finland and Denmark, the question remains – who will wear the armband?

    The versatile Stuart Dallas would have been a strong contender if he had fully recovered from his broken leg before these crucial games. His experience and commitment could have potentially placed him ahead of Cathcart in consideration for captaincy. Similarly, Corry Evans’ dedication to the cause could have propelled him into contention as well.

    Northern Ireland supporters eagerly await news on their next leader. Although O’Neill downplays its significance, choosing the right captain can greatly influence team dynamics and performance. Therefore, let’s assess some potential candidates.

    Josh Magennis – The Fans’ Favorite

    Striker Josh Magennis has long been adored by Northern Ireland fans for his relentless work-rate and goal-scoring prowess. If O’Neill were to entrust him with the captaincy, it would undoubtedly be a popular choice among supporters.

    Despite struggling with fitness and club form earlier in the campaign, Magennis showcased his capabilities when given the opportunity. His recent starts against San Marino and Slovenia demonstrated his value on the pitch.

    Paddy McNair – The Exceptional Utility Man

    Paddy McNair possesses both international experience and versatility, making him an intriguing candidate for captaincy. As one of few players in their late twenties within the squad, he stands out as a valuable asset to O’Neill’s team.

    A consistent performer throughout most of his international career, McNair’s recent performances may have dipped slightly, but he remains a reliable starter. Given O’Neill’s fondness for him since Euro 2016, where he played despite limited appearances in qualifiers, there is a strong chance he could step up as leader.


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